When I’m browsing where to go (I love travelling, but didn’t want to open with this cringy sentence :D), I have two requirements: must be interesting & affordable (lou bažé). That’s why I end up heading east (I mean, east of Berlin) as opposed to west most of the times. Last week me and Karl came back from a roadtrip in the Balkans. We took a flight to Niš in Serbia, rented a car there and drove to first Skopje, then Sofia, and back to Niš. This route is quite easy, since the cities are no more than a 3-hour drive from one to another. So no heavy roadtripping, just a conveniently planned 7-day trip to see the most locations. Here is a map and some tips and pics from these travelz.

Niš was the cheapest of the three places we visited, Skopje was in the middle, and Sofia’s prices resembling those of Bratislava, Prague and Sofia’s hipster places even Berlin. We were mostly only buying food tho. The car rental was 240 euro for 7 days. We initially thought that it was 80 euro with full insurance we booked online. Then we got there and the lady said that the FULL full insurance is additional 160 :’D … Learn from our mistakes and research this stuff.

Beware of the POTHOLES! They are ever present and dodging them is an art form you’ll have to learn if you don’t want to end up with a punctured tire. Driving between the cities is pretty chill with picturesque scenery and the traffic inside the cities is moderate, with the exception of Sofia – during rush hours leave the car parked and walk or take transport. Niš has a weird parking system, my suggestion: just pay the parking fines, it’s 9 euro.

I have to say, Berlin spoils us with some of the best clubs and parties in Europe, so we are pretty hard to please. However, in Skopje and Sofia there are places where you can party to some ok electronic music (see map). If you haven’t heard of the local pop music – chalga, then you’re in for a treat. Somehow I kinda like it! My Balkan friends are incredulous, because it’s not ”cool”, nor it is cool to like it… 😀 It’s incredibly sexist in the lyrics and the singers’ appearance. But there are some pretty entertaining gems like Fiki and Azis.

Maaan, we were totally pigging out! Balkan cuisine is plentiful in all sorts of salads and grilled stuff. Unfortunately, as a vegetarian/vegan if you want to eat local/traditional dishes in Niš and Skopje you might be quite limited to salads, pickles – which is not such a tragedy rly. Skopje has a really nice market where you can buy local fresh produce (see map). We were trying to avoid hype-y places to eat, and were seeking out low key places where the prices were ok and the locals went.

I have one thing to say: MISS MODA! I noticed that especially in Niš and Skopje women really do take care of their looks. Boutiques, cosmetic parlors, nail and hair salons are everywhere and this is also represented in the streets. I found it fascinating. And if you have checked out chalga by now, you’ll have a better understanding of this. We read something about partying in Skopje and it said that women have to wear heels… 😀 Eeek, tho! Actually, we did see people in full-on prom dresses and suits queueing outside a club in Skopje, so that was pretty odd. Maybe someone’s b-day, but probs just dressing up next lvl is normal there.

In Niš and Sofia there are many second hand shops. There’s enough for a whole day of browsing and shopping, with the bargains hiding in there, waiting to be discovered. In Sofia there are a lot of pick’n’weight 2nd hands, where you pay per kilo. Different days, different price per kilo, the lowest being Saturday, but this may vary.


Prices

Niš was the cheapest of the three places we visited, Skopje was in the middle, and Sofia’s prices resembling those of Bratislava, Prague and Sofia’s hipster places even Berlin. We were mostly only buying food tho. The car rental was 240 euro for 7 days. We initially thought that it was 80 euro with full insurance we booked online. Then we got there and the lady said that the FULL full insurance is additional 160 :’D … Learn from our mistakes and research this stuff.

Driving

Beware of the POTHOLES! They are ever present and dodging them is an art form you’ll have to learn if you don’t want to end up with a punctured tire. Driving between the cities is pretty chill with picturesque scenery and the traffic inside the cities is moderate, with the exception of Sofia – during rush hours leave the car parked and walk or take transport. Niš has a weird parking system, my suggestion: just pay the parking fines, it’s 9 euro.

Parties

I have to say, Berlin spoils us with some of the best clubs and parties in Europe, so we are pretty hard to please. However, in Skopje and Sofia there are places where you can party to some ok electronic music (see map). If you haven’t heard of the local pop music – chalga, then you’re in for a treat. Somehow I kinda like it! My Balkan friends are incredulous, because it’s not ”cool”, nor it is cool to like it… 😀 It’s incredibly sexist in the lyrics and the singers’ appearance. But there are some pretty entertaining gems like Fiki and Azis.

Food

Maaan, we were totally pigging out! Balkan cuisine is plentiful in all sorts of salads and grilled stuff. Unfortunately, as a vegetarian/vegan if you want to eat local/traditional dishes in Niš and Skopje you might be quite limited to salads, pickles – which is not such a tragedy rly. Skopje has a really nice market where you can buy local fresh produce (see map). We were trying to avoid hype-y places to eat, and were seeking out low key places where the prices were ok and the locals went.

Fashion

I have one thing to say: MISS MODA! I noticed that especially in Niš and Skopje women really do take care of their looks. Boutiques, cosmetic parlors, nail and hair salons are everywhere and this is also represented in the streets. I found it fascinating. And if you have checked out chalga by now, you’ll have a better understanding of this. We read something about partying in Skopje and it said that women have to wear heels… 😀 Eeek, tho! Actually, we did see people in full-on prom dresses and suits queueing outside a club in Skopje, so that was pretty odd. Maybe someone’s b-day, but probs just dressing up next lvl is normal there.

2nd Hand

In Niš and Sofia there are many second hand shops. There’s enough for a whole day of browsing and shopping, with the bargains hiding in there, waiting to be discovered. In Sofia there are a lot of pick’n’weight 2nd hands, where you pay per kilo. Different days, different price per kilo, the lowest being Saturday, but this may vary.

Niš

it is one of the oldest cities in the Balkans and europe with about 200k population. it’s pretty small, so you can definitely see the most interesting stuff in about a day and a half. Strays are abundant…

it is one of the oldest cities in the Balkans and europe with about 200k population. it’s pretty small, so you can definitely see the most interesting stuff in about a day and a half. Strays are abundant…


Skopje

the capital of Macedonia is a little weird. because an earthquake in 1963 destroyed so much of the city many buildings are new in modernist architecture. however, the weirdness lies more in the fact that you literally feel like a pawn in a game of chess among all the massive statues. i understood this is the government’s effort to build national awareness, since Macedonia was under the rule of others for so long and only got its independence in 1991.

the capital of Macedonia is a little weird. because an earthquake in 1963 destroyed so much of the city many buildings are new in modernist architecture. however, the weirdness lies more in the fact that you literally feel like a pawn in a game of chess among all the massive statues. i understood this is the government’s effort to build national awareness, since Macedonia was under the rule of others for so long and only got its independence in 1991.


Sofia

Sofia was lovely! out of the three it’s the biggest, so there’s the most to do/see. my highlight was definitely Borisova Gradina. it’s the oldest park in sofia and it’s buuutiful. go look for an abandoned public swimming pool inside the park!

Sofia was lovely! out of the three it’s the biggest, so there’s the most to do/see. my highlight was definitely Borisova Gradina. it’s the oldest park in Sofia and it’s buuutiful. go look for an abandoned public swimming pool inside the park!